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DNA review finds killer of two women in 1980s

Suspect with violent history died in prison

With the help of advanced DNA testing, law enforcement officials have solved the 1983 murder of a young woman in Massachusetts and the 1987 murder of a woman in New Hampshire, and determined that the killer was the same man in both cases, they announced Tuesday.

Authorities believe that Edward H. Mayrand Jr., who died in a Rhode Island prison in 2011, murdered 25-year-old Kathleen Daneault in her home city of Gardner, as well as Judith Whitney, 43, of Amherst, Mass., four years later in Winchester, N.H.

“There is no doubt about it. At this time, we have our man,” Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said Tuesday at a news conference on the Daneault murder.

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Early said that in 1983, Daneault was a “wonderful person” with a 5-year-old son who adored her.

She arranged for a baby sitter, “went out on a date and, unfortunately, she picked the wrong guy to go out with,” he said.

Mayrand, who was in and out of jail for rape and other violent crimes over the years, died of metastatic lung cancer while in prison in connection with another woman’s death.

Early read a statement from Daneault’s family that said, “Our one solace is that Edward Mayrand passed away in prison alone, without loved ones around him to comfort him, just as he left Kathy to die alone.

“While this does bring us some sort of closure, it does not erase the 31 years that the son whom she loved more than life itself has been without his mother,” the family said. “Siblings have been without their sister, and parents without a daughter. No family should have to live with that anguish.”

Mayrand was considered a suspect in the Daneault murder but never charged because investigators felt there was not enough evidence.

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State Police detectives assigned to Early’s office began looking into the Daneault murder in 2008 as part of a review of all unsolved cases.

Evidence from the case was resubmitted in March 2011 to the State Police Crime Lab for analysis. On June 29, 2011, Rhode Island corrections officials told Massachusetts investigators that Mayrand had died of natural causes the previous day.

“Despite the death of the only suspect in the case, I felt that it was important that the family of Kathleen Daneault know with some certainty that Mayrand was in fact [her] killer, so DNA evidence continued to be submitted for testing to the State Police Crime Lab,” Early said.

“In August of this year we received a report from the crime lab connecting Mayrand to the ligature found at the crime scene back in 1983. Last month, DNA testing eliminated other people known to Kathleen Daneault at the time of her death.”

New Hampshire authorities said Tuesday that Mayrand was also responsible for the murder of Whitney in 1987.

In 1994, Mayrand also killed Patricia Paquette in Rhode Island, authorities said. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in that case.

“Edward Mayrand’s pattern with women was one of violence. . . . H e repeatedly met women in taverns and bars, befriended them, and then turned violent toward them,” the New Hampshire attorney general’s office said in a statement.

“Although the New Hampshire State Police focused on all other possible suspects during the course of the Whitney murder investigation, there is no credible evidence that anyone other than Edward Mayrand killed Judith Whitney.”

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Martin Fincuane can be reached at martin.finucane@ globe.com.